Communications Spotlight

...Worth a thousand words

Responding to an alarm at an elementary school, officers pull into the school's parking lot. With no way of seeing what's going on inside the building or a parked school bus housing an alleged perpetrator, officers are at a disadvantage — putting their lives at risk. If they were able to view and share real-time interior and exterior video surveillance of both the school and the bus, officers could plan and execute a more effective response, greatly improving their safety and the safety of innocent bystanders.

While many businesses and schools have deployed video surveillance systems, they're typically closed-circuit (CCTV) systems that officers can't access. The ability to use wireless video to "see inside the building," and share that information among other officers and first responders, is driving demand for new multimedia communications that surpass basic voice communications systems.

Beyond incidents such as the one described above, there is an increasing reliance on video as a key tool in law enforcement's arsenal. Forward-thinking police departments throughout the United States are capitalizing on the benefits provided by wireless multimedia applications, which provide enhanced situational awareness, improve resource management and enable more efficient communications.

Multimedia applications — such as video, GPS location tracking and whiteboarding — are essential tools in law enforcement's arsenal. The ability to distribute video from officers in the field to scene commanders, track the location of and reposition resources on a map using whiteboarding, or provide Internet connectivity for accessing databases or submitting reports enables officers to do their jobs more efficiently and safely.

While there are many multimedia applications available to officers, video has proven to be the most valuable. Video conveys critical information more quickly, efficiently and accurately than voice. And, with video cameras and laptop computers becoming standard issue in law enforcement vehicles, leveraging wireless communications to capitalize on the capabilities of broadband multimedia is becoming less expensive and easier to implement.

Benefits of wireless video networks

WiFi-based video provides numerous benefits, including:

  • A first-person perspective of a scene without positioning an officer at the location — saving resources, improving productivity and delivering significant cost savings;
  • Providing virtual back-up by sending imagery to other patrol cars, the dispatch center and the watch commander to significantly improve officer safety;
  • Portable, remote surveillance systems deployed to monitor suspected drug houses or other sites prior to raids;
  • Access to video from existing CCTV systems, inside or outside buildings, or vehicles that can be relayed to officers arriving at the scene of an incident, improving their situational awareness.
Sharing multimedia information

The most efficient means for distributing multimedia applications among officers are WiFi mobile mesh networks. These networks enable officers to communicate device-to-device without requiring any fixed infrastructure at the scene of an incident. Each user serves as another connection in the network, providing multiple routes for sharing and distributing information. The networks also deliver the benefits of mobility and portability. Incident commanders can easily install these systems in police vehicles and emergency command centers at the scene of an incident. Afterwards, departments can take the systems with them for the next use, more effectively applying resources where and when they're needed.

The Federal Communications Commission increased the usability of WiFi by allocating the 4.9-GHz band exclusively for public safety use. Because only first responders are licensed to use the band, it is free from the congestion that public networks experience and provides mission-critical reliability.

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